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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Pune restaurateurs welcome state move, but worry about fewer patrons & rising costs

Amid stringent standard operating procedures (SOP), which will be finalised in the coming days, and precautionary measures such as contact-less menus and bar code systems, some restaurant owners feel optimistic about jumpstarting their businesses after a dormant period of almost six months.

By: Express News Service | Pune | Updated: September 29, 2020 1:31:27 pm
Come October first week, restaurants, bars to reopen in MaharashtraUnder its 'Mission Begin Again' guidelines, Maharashtra – worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic – had first permitted hotels, lodges and homestays to reopen with 33 per cent occupancy, which was revised to 100 per cent in August.

Restaurateurs in Pune have welcomed the move by the Maharashtra government to allow restaurants in state to provide dine-in services from the first week of October. Amid stringent standard operating procedures (SOP), which will be finalised in the coming days, and precautionary measures such as contact-less menus and bar code systems, some restaurant owners feel optimistic about jumpstarting their businesses after a dormant period of almost six months. Others, however, are bracing for a lean period with fewer customers, and issues such as staff shortage.

“The decision by the state government is very good for the industry and all restaurants will follow the SOPs… We are now calling back our staff so that we can resume dine-in services smoothly. The staff is also willing to come back as it is their source of income. We are going to be cautious as the pandemic is not over yet and it will not be over for the next two years, according to me. We can be cautious but can we can’t be shut for two years,” said Praful Chandawarkar, managing director of Chiranjeev Restaurants and committee member of Pune Restaurant and Hoteliers’ Association (PRAHA).

Rohan Swant, owner of Roots 9 in Erandwane, said that it will be some time before all patrons come back for sit-and-dine as the fear around the virus was likely to keep away most of the diners. “…The way I see it, diner footfall will be low to begin with, which will in turn have an effect on my menu as well as the amount of staff I can operate with at one go,” he said.

Citing that alcohol is one of the biggest revenue generators at restaurants, Sawant said that the state has not clarified if serving alcohol is allowed.

Deepak Borawake of One Peg Down in Wakad, said that while restaurants look forward to resuming their business, lack of required staff will pose an immediate challenge that they need to tackle. “Most of our staff are from Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. While we somehow managed to give out salaries, many of our staff are hesitant to come back as the city is among the worst hit by the coronavirus. Even so, it will take about 15 to 20 days to restart full operations…,” he said.

Santosh Shetty, owner of Cornet Hotel and Sudama restaurant in Deccan Gymkhana, said the impact of the pandemic on the economy has been huge and it will adversely affect every sector. “When the lockdown began, we did not anticipate that the situation would turn out this bad. Apart from my own restaurant, I also manage the Paratha House, restaurant Kalpana, Annachi Chawadiand restaurant Swagat, all strategically located in the main city. Monetarily speaking, we could not stop fixed payments like rents, salaries and EMIs. We had to manage the payments somehow amid the circumstances. The bad economy has hit everyone. While our restaurants serve quality food at affordable prices, the salary cuts and layoffs across sectors will influence footfall. People who came to dine on a regular basis will now come once or twice and there is not much we can do,” he said.

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